5 Steps to Take That Will Position Your Business For Growth When the COVID-19 Crisis Ends
By Andy Bailey
The economic shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc for many companies, but leaders who take decisive action now to protect their businesses from short-term losses and plan for the future can make the best of a challenging situation.
Executives around the world are asking the same question: “How am I supposed to plan and prepare for what’s next when I have no idea what is going to happen?” Fair question because we are in uncharted waters. Running a business right now is tough. Each day, leaders must make hard choices. They have to safeguard employees, take care of customers and pay the bills to keep the lights on.
There is, fortunately, a silver lining as leaders manage the COVID-19 crisis. A detailed 2010 analysis by Harvard Business School researchers found that 9 percent of 4,700 public companies studied prospered after the recessions of 1980, 1990 and 2000 – and had sales and profit growth that was at least 10 percent higher than their competition. A similar 2019 study by Bain supports those findings.
Most companies have not planned for something of this scale. But it’s not too late. It’s time to prepare, not panic, and drive ahead with a game plan to survive now and thrive in the future. Here’s how you do it:
- Create a COVID-19 recovery and rebound task force
Form a team that includes senior leaders from customer support, sales, marketing/PR, accounting/finance and legal to determine a going forward strategy. Keep the team small, around five people. Your colleagues are on the front lines with customers and vendors so you need their perspective and ideas. Bring your suggestions to the table, but always listen to what they say and don’t dominate the discussion. You will need their buy-in when the plan is implemented.
- Stay in frequent contact with customers
Your customers are most likely experiencing similar anxiety about what the future holds for their company. Stay in regular contact with them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Phone calls are preferred because they are more personal and allow you to get a better sense of how your customers are feeling. Texts and emails are good for following up. Ask them how they are doing, how their company is doing and how their industry is doing. And always, repeat always, ask them, “How are we doing and is there anything we need to do better?” The answer to that important question will provide invaluable intel about what your company needs to do to retain their business.
- Stress test your financials
Now more than ever you need to understand how a material slowdown or sudden stop in sales will affect the financial performance of your business. Get input from your sales, operations, HR and accounting leaders to analyze key operating costs (wages, raw materials, rent), investing expenses (capital expenditures on plant/property/equipment, software development, R&D) and financing costs (loan or dividend payments). Create different scenarios that forecast changes in your cash flow, net and operating income and balance sheet. The financial modeling will help you allocate resources needed to survive this disruption and position the company for future growth.
- Update your SWOT analysis
Remember the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis you did a while ago? Time to update it – but with a narrower timeline, like the next 30-90 days instead of one to three years. First, address the things you can control, which are your strengths and weaknesses. Map a strategy that bolsters your strengths and minimizes weaknesses. Next, work on the things you can’t control – threats and opportunities. You usually cannot fully eliminate all threats, but you can find ways to mitigate the risks to your business.
Finally, and this is where the best leaders and team shine, find ways to pursue opportunities. What trends are showing up in the market that play into the strengths of your business? What new products or services complement those trends? Answers to those questions will help your company rebound from today’s COVID-19 challenges.
- Build a plan and get to work
Put a COVID-19 rebound and recovery plan together and implement it quickly. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Identify steps to be taken and milestones to be achieved. It’s your blueprint for success and will keep your team on track and moving forward. Verify that each goal is S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). Organize tasks and goals on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis so you can regularly review and quantify progress. Identify obstacles that may get in the way – along with a plan to address them – so everyone on the team is moving forward and ready to pivot if the need arises.
Leaders who use this time wisely – to discover new or improved products and services and find ways to increase productivity – will come out winners when the pandemic ends and the economy recovers. Let’s get to work!
Andy Bailey is the founder and CEO of business coaching firm Petra Coach as well as the author of the Amazon bestseller “No Try Only Do: Building a Business on Purpose, Alignment, and Accountability” and a new book “Vitamin B (For Business).” He serves in an advisory role on the Gazelles Council, the leaders of the Scale Up movement. Visit his blog at www.petracoach.com for more business and leadership insight.